Newly published emails reveal that President Trump’s attempt to push for a transgender military ban did not have the level of support from top generals as was once believed.
In two emails sent to top generals in the Department of Defense, Gen. Joseph Dunford, Sr., the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that Trump’s announcement “was unexpected” and that he intended to say he was “not consulted” if asked about the policy.
The emails, obtained and quoted by BuzzFeed News on condition that they not be published due to the sensitive nature of the information in the emails, once again raised questions about the president’s trustworthiness, as Trump had previously claimed in a tweet that he had consulted with “my Generals and military experts” in deciding to push for a ban.
“Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail,” Trump tweeted at the time.
LGBTQ advocates have previously alleged that Trump’s announcement of the ban was political theater, done impulsively and without consulting military leaders who just a year earlier had seemed willing to allow transgender individuals to enlist and serve openly under an “open service” policy pushed by the Obama administration.
On July 27, the day after Trump announced the ban, Dunford wrote to Gen. Mark Milley, chief of staff for the U.S. Army; Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau; Gen. David Goldfein, chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force; Admiral John Richardson, chief of Naval Operations; and Gen. Robert Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps.
“Chiefs,” Dunford wrote in the email, “I know yesterday’s announcement was unexpected.”
He also provided a draft of a memo stating that the tweets had not resulted in a change in Pentagon policy as of yet. That memo was distributed by military officials later that day, with Dunford giving his approval so that the various branches of the military would be able to answer questions from the press.
Dunford followed up with a second message at 10:57 a.m. that same day, stating: “P.S. When asked, I will state that I was not consulted … expect that question will come NLT [no later than] my September hearing.”
The hearing Dunford was referring to was a scheduled appearance on Sept. 26 before the Armed Services Committee regarding his reappointment as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. At that hearing, Dunford said he believed transgender troops should be allowed to continue serving in the military, but was not asked by senators whether Trump had consulted with him in advance.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff did not deny or confirm the emails’ authenticity when asked about them, with a spokesman for Dunford saying it would be “inappropriate” to comment due to several ongoing lawsuits challenging Trump’s proposed ban.
Since the president’s announcement, at least four separate lawsuits have been filed to halt the Department of Defense from attempting to implement the ban. All of those lawsuits argue that the proposed ban is discriminatory, overly broad, and violates transgender people’s right to equal protection under the law and their due process rights.
While the cases are working their way through the courts, federal courts have issued injunctions to stop any efforts by military leaders to refuse to admit, or forcibly discharge, transgender individuals.
When asked to provide information about Trump’s claim that he consulted military experts before announcing the ban, the Justice Department raised executive privilege to try and keep that information secret. But a judge wrote in an order last week that the Trump administration was incorrectly arguing that an “absolute” privilege protected the administration from having to turn over certain information about meetings or conversations that Trump had prior to announcing the ban.
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